Tag Archives: farming

Researcher studies effectiveness of cocoa certification program


For some people anything is good if it’s made of chocolate. But many people don’t know how chocolate is made or where it comes from.

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans found in West Africa. As the world’s demand for chocolate rises, many cocoa farmers struggle with low yields and low incomes. More than 90 percent of cocoa farmers in Ghana, the world’s second largest producer of cocoa, live on less than a dollar a day per person.

Researchers are studying if certifying farmers as trained cocoa producers can benefit their businesses.

Ebenezer Offei Ansah, a masters student in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University, interviewed cocoa farmers and producers in Ghana to find out how certification programs work. His research could identify problems in cocoa production in Ghana and  other cocoa producing countries.

Listen to the podcast here.

Bringing Farmville to the tropics

By David Poulson

When you give a talk on science or research or just about anything, you want to establish an immediate relationship with your audience.

Find something you have in common before leading that audience into unfamiliar territory.

Here is a good example of doing just that in a  brief presentation at a recent workshop on fostering innovation at Michigan State University’s Global Center for Food Systems Innovation.

“Who here is on Facebook?” Emilia Tjernstrom immediately asks her audience. Chances are that everyone either is on Facebook or is inordinately proud of avoiding that cultural phenomenon.

Either way, Tjernstrom has us hooked as we wonder how she’ll ever link that opening to her research.

Continue reading Bringing Farmville to the tropics

Cassava: the Rambo of root crops

By David Poulson

Here’s a presentation of an innovative research project that also demonstrates some strong public engagement tools. Among them:

  • Length – It comes in under three minutes yet contains a remarkable amount of information. But just because it ends there doesn’t mean that communication ends with the presentation. This is the kind of thing that could well promote continued questions and conversation.
  • Popular culture reference – You have to capture your audience’s attention before you can inform them. The speaker does this with the references to Rambo in both the title and in his first sentence after greeting us: “Let’s think for a moment about Rambo.”
  • AlliterationRambo root has a nice ring.
  • Humor – “And yes, you’re in the right room.” That sentence prompts a chuckle.
  • The turn – This is where the speaker pivots from the funny, to the substantive – aided with some simple visuals. We quickly learn the attributes of cassava – it adjusts to climate change, there is potential to increase yields, it requires minimal inputs.
  • The metaphor – What if parents had a tool to help children realize their full potential? That’s what we’re going to do with cassava.

Continue reading Cassava: the Rambo of root crops

Researchers try to speed wheat development


Wheat is the second most widely grown cereal grain in the world. But wheat farmers could be even more productive if new varieties better withstand pests, disease, heat and drought.  These varieties still need to taste good and work well for cooking and baking.

Sarah Battenfield, a post-doctoral researcher at Kansas State University, develops high-quality wheat with “genomic selection,” a process that could speed the development of new varieties.

Listen to the podcast here.

Photo: Sarah Battenfield

Farming and Karate

There are many reasons community gardens are created. However few of those reasons involve martial arts. In Flint, Michigan, you can find a unique union of organic urban farming, and training in karate.

Jacky King, the executive director and grand master of King Karate Youth Karate-Ka, and Harvesting Earth Educational Farm, hopes to expand the business.

Listen to the podcast here.